Update: The rumor. There seems to be a lot of people looking for it, so here it is: The Lakers would give up Devean George and something (maybe a pick and/or other lesser players) and get in return Ron Artest and Jalen Rose. Toronto is the third team that makes it work. Check out the link above for the details, but know this is still very much a rumor, no matter how much air time it gets on talk radio, and I can think of a number of reasons it falls through (or never was). Now back to the planned post for the day.
End of game execution by the Lakers has become the stone around their neck. If the team could execute in the final minutes of games, the Lakers could have been 2-1 (at least) in the last three, instead it is a three game losing streak.
Last night against Memphis, with just over a minute in regulation and the Lakers in the lead, Lamar Odom rushed a very long two pointer with 12 to go on the shot clock and plenty of room to drive in front of him, later Devean George passed up an open look at a three, and Kobe Bryant kept shooting, and working outside the offense, despite shooting 40.5% on the night. No body could hit two free throws down the stretch. And it wasn’t just on offense, on the Stoudamire three pointer to tie the game, color guy Stu Lantz got on Sasha for going under the double pick the Griz set, but Lamar stood there and did not “show out” on Stoudamire, something he should have done to take away the three â€” let his man get the layup, that was just two points and the Lakers were up by three (on the final play of regulation Odom and Sasha switched in that situation and it worked). These are fundamental execution problems that have become chronic late in games.
Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times phrased it well today, the Lakers have a chicken-or-the-egg problem â€” Kobe isnâ€™t showing trust in his teammates all the time, but they are not earning it. They often donâ€™t step up and take the key shots late in games, they give the ball back to Kobe when he is double (or triple) teamed.
Kobe has struggled some in â€œclutch timeâ€ (with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game and neither team ahead by more than 5 points) shooting just 35.8% (eFG%) this season. But the teamâ€™s second option, the other guy who can create his own shot, Lamar Odom, is shooting 31.8%. Other key Lakers are shooting over 50% in the clutch â€” Brian Cook, Smush Parker, Devean George, Luke Walton â€” but their shots are going to be spot up shots off kick outs from Kobe or Lamar. Unfortunately, they have been hesitant with those shots, often throwing the ball back to Kobe, who is forced to take the awkward shot.
When the Lakers were winning on the road, they were getting good looks through the offense and knocking down their shots. Last night, when Kobe went to the locker room to get his eye worked on, the Laker offense fell apart, scoring one bucket in more than five minutes.
(An off-topic note: Maybe itâ€™s the old hockey player in me, but I loved that Kobe dished out a little payback to Mike Miller, sending a message that this team does not back down. Or at least Kobe doesnâ€™t. Marty McSorley would have been proud.)
I prefer to provide ideas, not just criticism, but this now falls to Phil to fix, to find a way to get guys to make better decisions late, to be efficient, something lacking the last three games. The rest of the team has come to lean on Kobe like a crutch at times, and Phil needs to kick that crutch out and make them walk on their own.